a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for November, 2015

On Seeing Eddie Redmayne’s Brilliant “The Danish Girl” a Second Time

Danish Eddie 1It was such a thrill to see “The Danish Girl” again last night after being totally enraptured and blown away by it in Toronto. And like in Toronto, at TIFF, in September, there was the same spellbound reaction from the tony audience.

You could hear a pin-drop. And at the end of this AMPAS-included screening, there was rousing applause. And cheering. And Bravos.

And I don’t usually do this, but I’m going to reprint my TIFF review in its entirety, so you won’t have to go hunting for it in the archives of this Blog.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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I’m devastated. I’m in tears writing this. “The Danish Girl” is a masterpiece, so moving, so profoundly important and brilliantly acted and directed, it will win Eddie Redmayne his second Oscar in a row for this heart-wrenching performance as first transgender Lili Elbe.  It has its’ slow patches, but once it gets going “The Danish Girl” is so powerful, so engaging, so beautiful, its’ ending, which I won’t reveal here, will absolutely crush you. And Eddie Redmayne is catapulted once again to the head of the Oscar race for Best Actor. As extraordinary as that sounds, it’s true.

His performance is beyond anything we’ve ever seen onscreen before. Never has this subject, transgender-ism, if there is such a word, been treated in this depth, and with such respect, and love. It’s a great love story. And not only Redmayne will be back at the top of everyone’s lists, director Tom Hooper, already an Oscar winner for “The King’s Speech”, will probably be up for every award in the book, for his sensitive, deft, beautifully handled helming of this tragic love story.Danish Eddie 3

And Alicia Vikander, who has been edging towards stardom, with every role she’s essayed, since she first came to global attention with “Anna Karenina”, as the blonde, sweet ingenue to Keira Knightley’s dark, tormented Anna, Alicia Vikander will for sure be nominated, perhaps as Best Actress even, but certainly as Best Supporting, for her astounding turn as Gerda Wegener, the devoted, confounded artist wife, whose husband, Einar is transitioning right before her confused, but compassionate eyes into Lili Elbe.(“Elbe, like the River” at one point Einar/Lili clarifies)

Einar and Gerde Wegener are a happily married couple at the start of “The Danish Girl” in 1920s Copenhagen. Both are artists, and there seems to be no clouds on their sunny, loving horizons. That begins to gradually change when one day, Gerde asks Einar to try on some ballerina attire of a model who has not shown up for her posing session. He obligingly does so, and the feelings of a woman’s stockings and shoes begin to arouse something deep-seated in him.

So begins Einar’s(Redmayne’s ) journey into what today is known as “transitioning.” We see this today in the person of Caitlyn Jenner, who used to be Bruce. Like it or not, Jenner has made this topic extremely relevant and the timing is just right for “The Danish Girl”s Oscar chances. Perfect, in fact.Eddie & Oscar 2

Redmayne’s Lili is a much more delicate, fragile creature than Caitlyn Jenner, needless to say. Redmayne gives her an ephemeral otherworldy quality. And he sensitively inhabits  her every single stage of her transformation. And makes clear what drives Lili  into emerging and totally obliterating Einar.

I did not know the shattered ending of this important, historic movie and I was totally enraptured, then horrified as “The Danish Girl” headed to its’ inexorable, tragic conclusion.

And Eddie Redmayne steps wholly and completely into screen history with this beyond magnificent portrayal. Another Oscar for Mr. Redmayne, please.

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Supporting Actress Race now All Shook Up By Golden Globes rulings

Irrational Man 3Now that the Best Actress Golden Globe Drama race has been topsy-turvy-ed by the HFPA ruling that Alicia Vikander of “The Danish Girl” And Rooney Mara of “Carol” are LEAD and not Supporting considerations, it leaves the Best Supporting Actress field WIDE open.

The unexpected turn of events is totally justified in that both Vikander and Mara are playing leading roles. But who does that open the door for now that Supporting Actress is a half-empty glass?

Well, I hope they consider the legendary Indie Queen Parker Posey for Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man.” Parker is playing a very horny mid-life chemistry prof who has a BIG drinking as well as a BIG man problem. She’s just delicious in it and has never been nominated. Critics weren’t kind to the film, though I, for one, totally loved it. It’s lack of a high-profile is a bit of a problem, but if campaigned properly Posey is LONG over-due for a nod. And Hollywood loves a good, drunk role. And they LOVE Woody, and they love the way he ALWAYS writes great Supporting Roles for women. Who does that? Almost no one.

Also someone who’s never been nominated, but who’s just great in “Love and Mercy” is Elizabeth Banks,as the only normal person who is front and center in this crazy mash-up of a film about the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson.

Her performance on Saturday  Night Live last night reminded audiences of how funny and versatile she is and high-lighted her directing skills, too, in a very funny opening number, in which she also sang!  And danced! Talk about triple threats beating the band!Rachel McAdams1

Another look-alike blonde Rachel McAdams may have her Oscar day and get swept in with the buzz surrounding the super-hot front-runner “Spotlight.” As a serious investigative reporter, McAdams is taking a 180 degree-turn in her career with this dramatic movie. I’ve loved her in Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” so I have a warm spot in my heart for her. Maybe the Academy does too. And they WILL see that movie. AND she’s doing that tricky Boston accent.

Sometimes just being in the right movie at the right time is all it takes to get a Supporting Actress nomination. Witness Jacqui Weaver’s less-than-stellar turn in “Silver Linings Playbook.” She was swept in with the tide with that one, a nomination for a performance so lack-luster NO ONE was predicting it.

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That could happen to Joan Allen, a great actress in my book for “Room.” She plays Brie Larson’s conflicted mother. And she’s GOOD. But not great. She’s been nominated before and they may just write her name down as force of habit.But she won’t win.

Another familiar name(and face) keeps popping up. It’s Oscar winner already and Hollywood legend Jane Fonda for a five minute spot in “Youth.” Performances this brief don’t usually get noticed but this year the pickings are PRETTY slim. And they all know and love Jane.Meryl Suffra !

Also in a teeny tiny role is the always nominatable Meryl Streep in “Suffragette.” Doing a thick high class British accent as Women’s Rights heroine Emmaline Pankhurst, she gives the film a jolt in her also five minutes worth of scenes. Also good in that movie is previous nominee Helena Bonham Carter. Another comic actress getting serious.

Another familiar Oscar winning face may just be Cate Blanchett, who may turn up in this Supporting category for her all-out camping as the evil stepmother, but with depth, in “Cinderella.” Wouldn’t it be ironic if because of her TWO great lead performances this year in “Truth” and “Carol” that she cancels herself out and splits her own vote? Especially since it looks like she is going to be sharing the Best Actress category with co-lead Rooney Mara.

Wouldn’t it be the HEIGHT of irony if Disney’s real life, non-animated “Cinderella” is where she gets in this year’s Oscar race? Don’t laugh. This could really happen. And the Oscars are always the height of irony, aren’t they? Well, sometimes.Stepmother 1

Oscar Category Confusion in Full Force. Alicia Vikander of “Danish Girl” & Rooney Mara “Carol” to Go Lead

Roonwy MARA 2aLICIA vIKANDER1And the Oscar Confusion continues on in this the most confusing of years. With all eyes fixed on the unheard of crowd of very strong actress performances now all being jammed into the Best Actress category. Sez who? Why the HFPA! Of all people, the Hollywood Foreign Press, who hand out the Golden Globes this and every year.

The one thing I can say about the HFPA is that they ARE press and do see all the many movies all the live-long year, as I do. I think that’s what makes them so sharp-seeming. They’ve seen’em all and so therefore the judgements are at least, we presume, informed.

And their latest call is one which actually has some merit to it. Putting Alicia Vikander of “The Danish Girl” and Rooney Mara of “Carol” in the Best Leading Actress Drama category. This of course confuses all the pundits and this race particularly. But let’s face it, both Vikander and Mara ARE leading performances. They were trying to be squashed into the Supporting Actress category, which is now very bare indeed.

But when the HFPA makes a ruling, they stick to it. And they consider Mara and Vikander as lead. Which knocks out quite a few ladies from contention.

Especially as regards the love it/hate it lesbian movie “Carol.” You see it has two co-leads Mara, who won Best Actress at Cannes for this portrayal of a shop assistant/photographer, and Cate Blanchett as Carol herself, the glamorous housewife-in-minks.

Rooney’s inclusion in lead just might knock co-star Blanchett out, and also, even worse, if they both get nominated in the same category they might cancel EACH OTHER out, splitting their own votes. Which is what I think is going to happen.

IN that category I feel are Brie Larson for “Room” and Saorise Ronan in “Brooklyn.” I think they, Blanchett, Mara and Vikander are all going to get in to the race for the Golden Globes.

Oh yes, and that little known ingenue Jennifer Lawrence will get put in the Best Actress Comedy field for the still unseen “Joy!”

It’s very unusual for the HFPA to make such a declaration ahead of the actual announcement of the nominees, but they’ve done it and now Focus Films(“Danish Girl”) and the Weinstein Co.(“Carol”) will have to abide by their decision. And you know what? I think that the Academy will, too.

It’s unlike the Academy to put some one in Supporting who the GOLDEN GLOBES(oh the horror!) have designated as lead. I don’t think it’s EVER happened before.

And I’ve described SIX ladies above^ and one of them is going to get left out when the Oscar nominations are announced in January. Larson, Ronan, Blanchett, Mara, Vikander and Lawrence. Who will the left-behind be?

And there’s still Dame Maggie Smith glorioous as “The Lady in the Van” to be considered! And you can never underestimate Dame Maggie. You do so at your own risk.

Stay tuned for even more category confusion, Oscar and otherwise, I’m so so sure!

 

Oscar, Oscar, Who’s Got the Oscar(Buzz)? Geza Rohrig, anyone? Don’t laugh! It could happen!

son of saulArmy of OscarsI can’t remember a year when Oscar was so upside down and backwards. And maybe that’s a good thing. Since when has Best Actor been skimpy and Best Actress so jammed?!? I can’t remember when, if ever, this hMatt Damon 1as not happened before. Simply. Something new under the Hollywood sun and how rare is that?

What the Tom Toms are beating is that Michael Fassbender and “Steve Jobs” are currently dying the Oscar death, being yanked mid-run from so many theaters across the country that it’s almost uncountable. Just go and and try to find that movie tonight at a theater near you. Nobody’s going. Where are they? They’re all having a grand ole time at “The Martian” which even in Imax and 3-D is still playing everywhere, and Matt Damon is going to be nominated for Best Actor and director Ridley Scott could win Best Director.

Matt has never won Best Actor, although he did win way back when he was a mere slip of a lad for co-writing the Best Screenplay with best bud Ben Affleck for “Good Will Hunting.”

But Matt has some stiff competition from Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl” which is just about to explode into cinemas as “Steve Jobs” hastily departs. Also Michael Fassbender will NOT campaign. And Matt Damon and Eddie Redmayne are EVERYWHERE. Or soon will be. At every Hwood party and gathering that they can possibly get into, charming everyone, everywhere.Eddieandlilli

And then there’s the darkest of dark horses in one of the Best Films of All Time, never mind this year.It’s Geza Rohrig, the unknown Hungarian actor. who is playing the title role in the just-about-to-be-released masterpiece “The Son of Saul.” Don’t laugh! It COULD happen!

The Academy has a thing about nominating unknown foreigners. Hell, they even sometimes WIN, like Jean DuJardin in “The Artist.” Or Luise Rainer in “The Great Ziegfeld” way back when. It’s an Academy tradition.

I’ve heard that Sony Pictures Classics, who has the magnificent, smart honor of releasing “Son of Saul,” is going to throw everything including the kitchen sink at it, Rohrig, Best Picture and Best Director, too for Laszlo Nemes. It’s his first feature. He’s got a great story to tell, and so do his cinematographer Matyas Erdely and particularly his sound editor and sound mixing team. It was in post-production for something like five years!.

And this is also Rohrig’s first film. He’s a 39-year-old poet, of all things, who lives in Manhattan.

Did I say it’s set in the middle of the Halocaust at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp? Since this incredibly tight close-up is ALWAYS (or almost always) focused on Rohrig’s desperate face, he’s front and center EVERY second of this darkest of dark films. It may be considered the best film ever made on the Holocaust.And Rohrig carries it.

Rohrig’s painful, gut-wrenching performance will be hard for Academy members to ignore. His ravaged. savaged face IS the whole fllm. And since we never see much outside of his peripheral vision, we HEAR it! And it’s blood-curdling. As he, Saul, a Sodocammadant, a Jew, who has to do all the dirty work that no one else will do. He has to herd the Jewish victims to their deaths, slamming the gas chambers doors on them,listening to their screams, then quickly taking all “the pieces” as they call the bodies out, and scrubbing the floors clean so the next group won’t see any of their blood.

It’s going to score in soooo many categories its’ going to make pundits heads spin, who’ve left him, and it, off most of their current lists. It won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, the Vulcan award for sound design, the Francois Chalais prize, and the Fipresci. How can the Academy ignore these distinctions?

Watch out of “Son of Saul” is all I can say. To ignore it’s profound achievement is to ignore what is going to soon be considered an un-disputed masterpiece.

I’m the Oscar Messenger. I’m telling you the Oscar Message. I’ve read it already and this year it was written in Hungarian and said “Son of Saul”

Keira Knightley “Therese Raquin” Brave on Broadway

Matt Ryan1houTherese Raquin 1Keira KnightleyKeira Knightley is routinely considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. So in making her Broadway debut she has bravely chosen the extremely dowdy, downtrodden heroine of Emile Zola’s “Therese Raquin.” And to her immense credit, she pulls it off. In spades.

“Therese Raquin” has got to be one of the darkest, most depressing plays I’ve ever seen, but it is rather like an edge-of-your seat noir thriller due to Knightley’s and her great supporting casts excellent, full-throttle performances.

And it’s such a James M.Cain/Raymond Chandler like story that you can’t help thinking about of all things the film classic “Double Indemnity” which starred Barbara Stanwyck at her wickedest and sexiest as a house-wife serial killer. Knightley is right up there already with the screen greats, having two Oscar nominations under her belt already. One for “Pride and Prejudice” and one just this last year as a brainy mathematician in “Imitation Game.”

Therese is such a bold choice for Knightley being as unflattering and dour a character as has ever inhabited the French stage. She’s a combustible vixen hidden in the guise of domestic 19th century mouse. She’s so dowdy in Act I, she almost seems like a servant in her own home. Which I guess is the point.

She is rushed into marriage with a man she doesn’t love Camille, played by “Matilda”s Tony Winner Gabriel Ebert. The formidable DOUBLE Tony winner Judith Light is the mother-in-law from Hell here. I wish her accent had been less distracting. She was alternatively British and Brooklyn. It was the only time I’ve ever seen Light have vocal trouble like this.

A studly family friend (Welsh actor Matt Ryan) wanders into this menage and upsets the Raquin’s household & marriage, seducing the vulnerable, but utterly willing Therese.

A scene with the stud’s artist loft afloat in the starry night sky-high above the stage as the lovers consummate their tryst is utterly magical. And for a brief moment, this 19th century drama flies, and our spirits, do, too.

Our sympathies are utterly with the two young lovers and we want them to — wait for it — murder the boring, sickly husband. Just like in “Double Indemnity”! And we want them to get away with it.

Matt Ryan’s ne’er-do-well perfectly personifies the 19th century starving artist that is going to turn Therese’s life (and the play) upside. He sizzles and sizzles burning up Therese’s home, hearth and bed and the vast Studio 54 Stage with a lust that could just turn dangerous at any moment. And it does…

I had no idea what the plot twists were going in to “Therese Raquin” and so I won’t spoil any of them here except to say that I loved all the twists and spooky turns the story takes. Two and a half hours of the darkest of French drama flew by like a whistling train. I loved it.

And I’m sure that Knightley’s stunning, almost wordless performance(in the beginning of Act One) is going to be immortalized eventually as a feature film.

But to see this courageous young actress’s wondrous Therese live in a theater is the kind of theater experience I live for.

My Interview with the great Bryce Pinkham airs at midnite tonite on MNN, TWC, RCN & Fios!

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My interview with the great Bryce Pinkham is divided into three parts on You Tube. You can click on Pt.One here, and see the entire part one on my TV Show tonight at midnight on Ch.56. on Time Warner Cable, Ch.83 on RCN cable and Ch.34 on Fios. In Manhattan only. But online at that time on http://www.mnn.org. Click on “Watch Now” on Ch.2, the Lifestyle Channel.

We talked so much about so many things in Bryce’s burgeoning career there’s also a  part two coming  soon on MNN.

We also got to speak about his great Madagascar charity Zara Aina.

Filmed entirely at the Marshal Restaurant on 10th Avenue in the theater district. Charlie Marshall, the owner manager also drops in in Pt. Two, coming soon. That’s Charlie Marshall with two Ls,.His restaurant is just one L. And it’s one L of a restaurant!

His Broadway show is the Tony winner “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” Bryce had just returned to it at the time we shot this delicious interview.

Bryce had a show that night(When doesn’t he?) and was rushing to a curtain. He had watermelon gazpacho and three devilishly delicious deviled eggs, if memory serves.

A definite high-point of this year’s Stephen Holt Show!

Camera- Phil Sokoloff

Editing ~ Kevin Teller

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